So, I started giving my chapters titles. Yes, they are lame and crappy. Most of them are really bad and un-funny jokes. But I figured that the story could benefit from some humour, right?
Anyways, these are chapters 21-22. I have chapters 23 and 24 written, but they still require extensive editing and are rough around the edges. Hopefully you can expect to see them tomorrow or Saturday.
And this is basically it! Chapter 24 takes us almost to the end, so you can expect to see things wrapped up in chapter 26 or 27, depending on if I do any more flashbacks. We have at least one more in chapter 23, and maybe one in 25, mixed with present day stuff. Then its 26-27 for the climax (if I am actually good at writing and haven't missed it already) and then 28-29 as epilogues/wrapping up loose ends.
Anyways, without further ado, here are three of the last chapters!
Chapter 20: What a pain in the upper frontal lobe
Lian stood up and stretched.
“This is it. I’ve disarmed the trap. Lets let Iris out”
She leaned down to pop the catch, but Kral caught her arm.
“And how do you think you’ll explain that? How do you think you will walk her through the halls of the ship without getting strange looks. Lets be smart about this”
“Fine. Lets drag a crate up to Jor’s room, and then have a woman walk out a few minutes later. Infinitely better”
“Well, what else is there to do? Its better than having everyone in the-”
“Everyone is going to see anyways! Don’t you think that Callion will be having Jor’s room watched?”
“Yes, but Jor probably has some security. Plus, it’ll be easier to get one room cleared by those loyal to him than to clear the rest of the ship!”
“But we’ll still have to find someplace for Iris to go!”
“Both of you be quiet”
The two turned to see Jor walking towards them across the hangar.
“We’ll take the crate and Iris” he looked at the two skeptically “To your temporary quarters Lian. There we will have the meetings necessary. If need be we can pretend that you and I are lovers to deflect suspicion. Its common enough for a commander to bring his mistress aboard his ship so that they might be closer. I’ll ask for you to have privacy, and the crew respects me enough to give it to you. Lets go”
Lian half smiled as Kral stepped back and marched off to find some people to carry the crate.
“If you just brought your lover aboard, then why not try cracking a smile, huh Jor?”
Jor fixed Lian with such a piercing glare that she took a step backwards. She could see in that moment why he was prized as Callion’s best assassin. There was something in that gaze that froze her blood.
“I don’t smile Lian. Not anymore. Understand that”
He turned and walked away, and Lian wondered whether or not she had just shattered a year’s worth of camraderie and shared purpose.
But then again, it was really only one shared purpose, and they had only spent a day or two together all told.
And their purposes weren’t even the same. They both wanted to find Sho, but for very different reasons.
Lian shuddered. She could not fathom what went on in Jor’s mind. She just hoped that when the time came she could convince him to give Sho another chance.
The walk to her new quarters was uneventful and swift. As soon as the crate had been put down on the floor the crewers left and Lian went about the process of defrosting Iris.
When she sat up, eyes wide, Lian rested a hand on her shoulder.
“Iris, please stay calm. I’d like you to meet someone. His name is Jor, and he will be a big help in dealing with your father…”
Lian watched Jor’s face go from no expression to wide eyed astonishment as he recognized the facial features of the girl before him. It was going to be an interesting tale to tell.
The Agent stood and stared out the window. Callion had a daughter who wished to help the overthrow that vile creature. It was almost too good to be true.
“Fine then, Agent. You know, this actually brings up a question I have”
The Agent turned to face Lian “Yes?”
“How come you will let Kral and the officers and soldiers here call you by your name, but not me?”
“Because you know the true me Lian. You have seen how dark I can be, and besides, in the military they are very particular. I let them have their way with my name, so that I can do what I need to do. Its all about being polite”
“But you don’t need to be polite to me?”
“Unfortunately, no Lian, I do not. You have already seen, you already know. And we are together in this no matter what”
“But you used to let em call you Jor”
“Yes, I did. But I’ve decided against it now. There is no Jor, not right now. There cannot be. I must be The Agent if we are to succeed in this, if we are to kill Callion. Of course I-”
The Agent fell to his knees and clutched his head in pain.
“Jor? What is it?”
Lian dropped to a knee and Kral ran from the next room.
“Its-nnng-nothing. Just my-agggh”
The Agent collapsed, the blinding pain shutting down everything. Shutting it down. Shutting it down. He couldn’t think straight. It must be because the blinding pain was shutting everything down. Why couldn’t he think? He knew what had happened, but he couldn’t speak because the pain was-
No. He had already thought that. He would work his way through it.
But, he opened his eyes, and everything went black and grey and then he fell over.
“Its his implant. The thoughts of betraying Callion must have activated it”
“He has a chip in his brain that stops him from thinking traitorous thoughts. Anytime he thinks one, or actually entertains the idea of doing something traitorous it activates and floods his nerves with pain until he lets go of the thought. If he doesn’t the pain slowly builds until he is knocked unconscious. When he wakes up if he doesn’t repent it’ll start again”
“I guess it is. But that means-”
“We can’t continue until he gets that chip out. But removing the chip will detonate it, blowing up him, and anyone near him. Its small, but it has a large enough charge to do that”
“Then…wait. I think I have an idea”
“For removing the chip?”
“Yes. It’ll be tricky, but I think that we can do it”
Chapter 21: Prelude to the Endgame
“Do you have any idea how dangerous this is?”
“Yes, but we must do it…”
The voices faded in and out.
“...Ok, now, move that there…”
“Keep that lifted! Don’t let it touch the cranial plate! Now…”
“...Ok, so its out. Make sure to keep it submerged…”
“Quick, up the dosage”
He recognized some of the words but none of the voices. Where was he?
But the thoughts faded as the words did.
Kral stood outside the operating chamber and looked at Jor. He lay on the table, head pulled open, surgeons walking around him.
But they weren’t real surgeons. They were chop-shop workers in the Arc. This whole mission, this whole trip was futile, and dangerous beyond belief.
He had told Lian that multiple times, but it was no use. She had insisted.
She was standing beside him now, but he refused to talk to her. He had nothing to say to her, the woman who believed that they should forgive the Butcher.
And she had nothing to say to him.
So they stood there in silence as they watched the scum, the slums, the criminals and the delinquents operating on Jor, their best hope for the future.
The Artist awoke shortly before the ship arrived at the destination. It slowed down, and that was likely what woke her.
She sat up, and stared out the viewscreen.
The fleet was missing.
But it had been supposed to be here. The Sniper’s fleet. So, where was it?
She checked the scanners. Nothing. Nothing at all.
No, wait. There was something.
But it too large to be a fleet. It couldn’t be a fleet, could it? Was it debris? There were too few life signatures, and too much metal.
Then it arrived, slowing down and arriving.
It was a fleet. A massive massive fleet.
And it was coming straight for her.
The Agent sat up. The back of his head hurt like hell, but that was the only thing that felt different. He on a bed in a stark but grimy room, an odd juxtaposition.
“Where am I?”
“You don’t remember, do you?”
The Agent turned to see Kral standing next to him.
“It was Lian’s idea. She found out about the chip, and so she had the fleet bring you here. Hacked your computers, gave a direct order from the High Council. Brought them running, then stewing just outside of sensor range. They think that they are here to defend against an attack on the Arc”
“And in reality they are here to deliver me to…”
“A chop shop. They operated, and took out the chip”
Kral stepped forwards, and passed the Agent a small piece of metal.
Jor looked down on the chip with astonishment. He could do whatever he liked now, think whatever he liked. He could leave.
He looked up in surprise that Lian had known his thoughts. She was sitting in the corner behind him, so he had not noticed her before.
“You are free of the chip, but you are not free of Callion”
“I know that Lian. You think that I would back out now? After I have lost so much to this man. No, I will kill him”
“Good. Because as soon as your healing kicks in and fixes you up from this little escapade thats exactly what we are doing. Callion had to bring his fleet to Mars to cover for us. Its there now, and the Earth Council is making a big final push. They intend to this time capture Mars, and win the war, or lose. But its all or nothing now”
“Then we should be there fighting. Lets go”
The Agent stood, and walked out through the door, stumbling only once.
Callion stood on the viewing deck of the Annihilator and fumed. Jor abandoned his post? Worse, he left at just as the Earth Fleet arrived in force. As strong as Callion’s personal fleet was, it was barely holding the Earth Forces at bay, and was suffering extreme losses.
He needed Jor, and the rest of the Colonies fleet, and he needed them now. He could change the course of the battle if he had them. He could change the course of the future.
He just needed Jor to be here.
He glowered as he stared out the viewports. Below him Mars caught the sun and burned red. For all he knew it really was burning as shots missed their targets and fell onto Mars instead.
But he didn’t care. He could gladly burn Mars, Earth, the Arc, everything, if it meant that he ruled what was left. Yes…he would rule, no matter what the cost.
And now he had another option though. He smiled as he thought of his prisoner deep in the bowels of the ship, undergoing ‘reconditioning’ before he had her implanted with the chip.
The Butcher. She was finally his. They had caught her as they entered the system; she had tried to run but it had been to no avail.
Soon he would have two assassins, two people to do his bidding. Soon he would be able to rule supreme, even if this war went against him.
He smiled at the thought as he listened to the primal screams torn from the Artist. He would have to mute the feed whenever he entertained guests, but until then…
He turned the volume up a bit louder, and relaxed in his chair as he watched death and destruction dance across the two fleets before him.
Soon he would have all that he had ever desired.
Soon he would have everything.
Chapter 22: Second Prelude (like second breakfast but more plot filled)
The Agent looked at the readout of Mars as the ship hurtled through space. He could see everything happening as it had an hour ago. The newest transmissions package had not been sent yet.
The two fleets swarmed around each other, dancing, darting, making an oddly beautiful dance of death.
But he didn’t care about that. What he cared about was whether or not Callion would flee before he got there.
It didn’t look like he would. The Earth Council still had reserves behind, but they were not sufficient enough to drive Callion out in one big push. The Agent knew how the Earth Council fought. They fought by guerilla tactics, wars of attrition, not straight fights.
Callion would be able to hold out until Jor got the fleet there, especially with his Annihilator. That ship could likely hold off the entire Earth Fleet by itself, at least for an hour or so.
So it looked like they would have enough time to carry out their plan.
The Agent turned and looked at Kral standing in the doorway.
“I’ll be a moment, I just-”
“Now. This is important”
The Agent nodded apologetically to the others in the command room, then walked over to Kral.
“What is it?”
“Its the Butcher. Callion caught her”
The Agent didn’t waste time with stupid questions. Normally he might have, but now there was no time for them.
“She was in a small ship when they arrived in the planetary system. On the outskirts herself, they caught her before she could run”
“Does Lian know?”
“And what does she say about this?”
“She says that it is a great opportunity. She thinks that if we free the Butcher she’ll fight beside us and be a great help in a fight. I think that we should just leave her to her fate”
“I agree. But Lian also has a point”
“You’re not seriously considering-”
“Its a change in the situation. It needs to be taken into account. What if by the time we get there Callion has turned the Butcher? We need to have a plan to deal with that”
“I suppose we do”
“You go talk to Lian about it. Get some kind of plan ready. I’ll finish up here, then come down and help you both plan”
The Agent turned back to the screen. The ships there didn’t matter now. Now it was a race not against the Earth Council, but against Callion, and against the strength of Sho’s will.
It was a race that the Agent did not think that they could win. But as the ships tore through space, heading towards destiny, there was something that the Agent could do to bring hope. There was one more chance for redemption, something he needed to do before the fleet arrived.
“Iris” He stepped into the girl’s room and saw that she had been crying again.
“You are still upste about this, aren’t you?”
‘You don’t want us to kill your only parent, your last remaining family. I understan. Even though he is evil, abused you, is a horrid man, he is your father”
“He is not my father! But…”
The words came out all at once.
“But he is the only one who knows for sure whether or not my mother is alive, whether or not I can ever see her again, where she is”
“Iris…you said that your mother’s name was Cassy, yes? What did she look like?”
“She was my mother. She was, she was my height, brown hair. She liked to braid it and hang things from it”
“I thought as much. Iris, you are going to come with me now”
“What? Why? And what did you mean you thought so?” Understanding dawned after a moment “You’ve seen her? Where is she?”
The Agent just shook his head and motioned for her to follow him.
“And stay quiet please. If you draw less attention to yourself then you’ll be less likely to be noticed. Remember, nobody knows that you are on the ship”
The Agent took off at his usual brisk walk, marching through the hallways of the ship. Nobody noticed the girl trailing in his wake, or if they did they did not say anything. He was constantly trying out new members for the strike team, so that could explain things.
The Agent shook his head at the thought of his strike team.
They had not been…they had been locked down on the ship for a while now. No actions, no movements. He guessed that he owed them an explanation of what he was trying to do, but he didn’t trust any of them enough to bring them in on attacking Callion. And even if he had trusted them he did not want to endanger them any more than he already was.
He sighed. Usually he did not permit himself the luxury, but this time he allowed it.
And then he was there.
He walked into their quarters, and pulled the fire alarm.
iris looked at him, and he pushed her into the small closet just beside the entrance. She resisted but he slammed the door shut, and locked it.
As the team ran out into the hall, weapons drawn he motioned for them to stand down.
“Apologies. I need the rooms. Go to the mess, have an extra meal. I’ve already authorized it. Or do whatever you like. I just need the area cleared”
They didn’t ask questions, just nodded and holstering their weapons or leaving them in their rooms began to file out.
As Cassy passed the Agent put out his hand and pulled her aside.
“Not you. You’re staying here”
The others looked questioningly at the Agent, and Thomas even stepped forwards to say something, but the Agent just waved him on.
Finally after everyone had left the Agent reached over and locked the door behind them.
“Take a seat”
“I prefer to stand”
“You’ll need to sit for this”
Cassy looked at him warily, then sat. About this time iris started banging on the closet door.
“What is that?”
The Agent did not answer, but instead walked over and opened the door.
Iris glared at him, and started to berate him, but then trailed off when she saw Cassy.
Cassy had started to stand, but dropped into her seat again as the Agent stepped forwards to catch Iris as her legs gave out.
“Easy, both of you. I’ve deactivated the security cameras, and with the others gone you have the rooms to yourselves. Send me a message when you’re done, and I’ll take you both to your new quarters”
“Jor…I-thank you. I don’t know what to say…just, thank you”
“You can stop following Callion’s orders now Cassy. Once you two have made up your minds I have a systemrunner waiting and ready should you choose to leave. You don’t need to come back. If I fail in my mission, you’ll have to take the jump or else Callion will find you again”
“What is your mission?”
The Agent looked at her as he stepped towards the door. He paused as he considered telling her, but he owed her this much.
He unlocked the door but did not open it.
“To kill Callion”